This is a poem I wrote in 1993 about the Australian high country, and the ghostly memories and history embedded in the highland alps and bushland.
My memories of the mountain scene
of mountain ashes, snowgum trees
and climbing slopes of emerald green
where once our stouthearted cattlemen
drove wild steeds through bush with ease
The high ridges outline a country rough
it’s hemmed by a haunting dark treeline
where the air is pure, the ground tough
I ponder images of stories untold
stories of ancestors, yours and thine
When I cast my eye upon a lonely hill
I envision a ruin of a rustic hut
So forlorn, yet it stands at will
In the old days it stood with glory
and the door used to always shut
But now our history lay quiet and still
deep in valleys, below and above
where our true soul lay veiled at will
In a majestic aura of our high country
the part of Australia I most love.
I grew up for a short part in south eastern Victoria, in the Gippsland region, an area comprising snow fields, wilderness, the high country, rainforests, farming and more. I adored the mysterious mountains, with abundant streams, forests and creeks.As a family we used to visit family friends with rustic farm homes in the mountains, or explore the highlands and snowfields, pick wild blackberries, or go hiking in towns steeped in gold mining history. I particularly loved the pine forests, here you stand in towering heights of Pine trees, the scent permeating the air around you, the scene dark and misty around you, with almost eerily silence.
I credit my father to my love of nature, he instilled a sense of adventure and appreciation for the natural environment, and we explored a lot of our country. He also used to find animals in nature and bring them home to show us, but then he would return them exactly where he found them. One time, he had an echidna, and I nursed it gently on my lap, as we returned it to it’s little burrow.
Walhalla, is one such place we would visit. It is a historic township located in picturesque mountains edging a steep valley called Stringers Creek winding through thick forests of the Baw Baws (snow country). In it’s day, 1880 and 1895, more than 4000 people lived in this rural town. I loved the old rustic buildings that existed, the old tram line, and I would enjoy climbing and exploring places with my dad, and discovering huts off the beaten track.
The high country is synonomous with the Man from Snowy River, and if you visit this link you will see what inspired the poem above and the stories you can imagine unfolding from behind old wooden hut doors. There is something beautiful I find about huts and cabins nestled in a wild country side – perhaps it is that feeling of being connected to nature, of being self sufficient, being in harmony.
One of the best ways to enjoy the countryside is via horse, and so living in this region gave me the opportunity to enjoy riding through the vast high lands. There is a great company called Bogong Horseback Adventures and it was an experience to remember, we did a half day high country trail ride with ploughman’s lunch along the way. We traversed through mountains, rivers, fern gully plains, forest, and swamps. There were times the bush was so thick that, we were instructed to lean forward, put our arms around the horse and have trust they would follow each other through. My favourite experience was a huge swamp, and cantering through it, with mud flying everywhere…so wild and fun for this free spirited girl.
Also, the Man from Snowy River is one of my favourite Australian poems by Banjo Patterson, and tells the story of a young mountain man who on his little mountain pony, rides out with the stockmen in pursuit of a runaway horse. He is laughed at by the other men, because of his small pony and youth, but when he takes to the wild and rugged high country with the wild bush horses, he and his pony grow with courage and respect…..